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Into the Dark - Season 1, Episode 10: “Culture Shock” TV Episode Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by Blumhouse

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Directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero
Written by James Benson, Efrén Hernández, and Gigi Saul Guerrero
90 minutes, 2019, Not Rated
Premiered on Hulu on July 4th, 2019

Starring:
Martha Higareda as Marisol
Richard Cabral as Santo
Shawn Ashmore as Thomas
Barbara Crampton as Betty
Gigi Saul Guerrero as Paola
Sal Lopez as Coyote

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Review:

“The ugly fallout from the American Dream has been coming down on us at a pretty consistent rate since Sitting Bull’s time – and the only real difference now, with Election Day ’72 only a few weeks away, is that we seem to be on the verge of ratifying the fallout and forgetting the dream itself.” – Hunter S. Thompson

I could stop right there and let one of America’s greatest voices say it far better than I…but you know I’m not going to.

We are living in a time when the world is going batshit crazy at an alarming rate, and the U.S.-Mexico border is a dividing line between two cultures that is dividing America as well. Up-and-coming filmmaker Gigi Saul Guerrero offers us a terrifying vision of the near future that seemed laughable a few years ago but now brings a nervous quality to the laughter. There aren’t many left laughing, for that matter.

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Marisol (Martha Higareda; Altered Carbon) has her heart set on getting across the border and securing that fabled American Dream for her unborn child at all costs. She’s so desperate that she enlists a coyote (Sal Lopez; Full Metal Jacket) who failed her once before. Mexico holds nothing for her anymore. Mere days away from giving birth, she joins a group of refugees, including hardened killer, Santo Cristobal (Richard Cabral; Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones). The group is captured. She comes to only to find herself in a picture-perfect American community. Patriotism is everywhere. Her fellow refugees are fully Americanized to the point of having no memory of their past. The Americans in the community are simply perfect, and that’s the problem. Marisol is living with Betty (genre goddess Barbara Crampton; Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dead Night) and her baby has already been born (though she has no recollection of the birth). As the only one who realizes that it’s all too good to be true, Marisol must dig deeper. What she finds is the stuff of nightmares thought long buried.

Culture Shock will draw inevitable comparisons to the works of Jordan Peele and for good reason. Those who don’t like the reality of the world we live in will call it heavy-handed, and they won’t be entirely wrong, either. Here’s the crux, though: how do you get people to really listen? Gigi Saul Guerrero understands, as a Mexican woman trying to make her mark in a business that (to say the least) isn’t designed for her, that you can’t be meek or understated in your approach.

And this is horror, goddammit! You should be shocked! Your eyes should bug out a bit. The word extreme should come to mind. A major factor in the popular and critical renaissance that horror is going through today is that the genre is the perfect medium for taking the unthinkable and forcing you to adopt a new perspective. Great horror puts you in the other person’s shoes; Culture Shock is wearing some damn nasty kicks. The cheeseburger and pizza dinner scenes are worth the price of admission alone.

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The juxtaposition of the sweaty, grainy, grimy feel when the camera is on the Mexican side of the border and the glaring, hyper-bright, pastel glow of the American side of the border is a fantastic visual touchstone, evoking emotion whether you want it to or not. The cinematography is a treat. Guerrero leaves no stone unturned in balancing realistic and outlandish.

The casting is another huge win. Martha Higareda’s Marisol is the strong heroine a story like this needs, equal parts vulnerable and fierce. Richard Cabral bounces nimbly between dangerous killer and borderline campy American convert, a perfect counter to Marisol’s leadership.

And how about the legendary Barbara Crampton?

She’s been one of the great gifts to the genre since returning to the screen in 2011 with You’re Next. Before she even opens her mouth and flashes her pearly white teeth in a smile that will turn your bowels to water, you know from the look in her eyes that shit just isn’t right. It’s a performance that would have been at home on Rod Serling’s original Twilight Zone. The ageless Mrs. Crampton is well on her way to becoming the “Betty White of Horror” with roles like this.

Culture Shock is a fitting way to celebrate the 4th of July for a series of films where each one is inspired by a holiday. It’s sure to be a bit divisive and spark some debate. There may even be, dare I say, some arguments as the credits roll in homes around America.

Good. That’s how you know it’s working.

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Grades:

Episode: Fourandahalfstars Into The Dark S01 E10 Culture Shock Small
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About The Author
Stuart Monroe
Staff Writer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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